September 28, 2014

ANALYZING THE BY-ELECTIONS

FIVE LESSONS THAT THE BY-POLLS TEACH US


Wow! Who could have predicted this? Less than four months after that landslide victory in favor of the BJP, not many of us would have thought that the results of the by-polls could be so different. As if the 3-0 rout at the hands of the Congress in Uttarakhand was not enough, the defeat in Bihar and the decimation in Uttar Pradesh have put a question mark over the perception that the BJP would make inroads into hitherto unknown lands, riding on Modi Mania. At the same time, the regional players, most of which were obliterated in the General Elections put up a good show, laying to rest 'fears' that the country was heading towards a two-party rule. Besides, the Congress too showed signs of improvement; the 120 odd year old party does have a future in our democracy. Analyzing the results from 14 states that have seen snap polls, here the four key takeaways from the August-September 2014 by-polls.

May 2014 was a victory for Modi, not for the BJP: I remember this one episode during the 2014 Lok Sabha polls when former BJP president Rajnath Singh had to change one of his tweets from 'Abki bar BJP Sarkar' to 'Abki bar Modi Sarkar'. Psephologists and political observers have for months debated whether the magical numbers that the saffron camp got in the General Elections was an endorsement of Modi or a vote for his party or a combination of both. I believe that the by-polls has settled this debate. Nothing else can explain why the BJP fared so badly in the by-elections in spite of that superlative performance it registered less than 150 days ago. There is no doubt that even without Modi the NDA would finish as the largest alliance after the big polls; however, there was no way that it could cross the 200 mark, forget 342. Modi's excellent oratory skills, his charisma an his portrayal as a 'pro-development' leader helped his party move from the Opposition benches to the Treasury benches in the Parliament. Thus the saffron camp was right in breaking ties with Nitish and suppressing the anti-Moi camp lead by Advani.

The Satraps strike back: For all those who wrote the obituaries of the likes of Mulayum, Mayawati, Lalu Prasad and Nitish Kumar in the aftermath of the May elections, the results of the by-polls have proved the satraps still have a future in the politics of the country, so what if it is not as bright as it was some time back. Bihar witnessed political churning with Lalu's RJD joining hands with Nitish Kumar's JD(U) and the INC to take on the NDA. The Mega-alliance helped the Manjhi government to survive the test on the floor of the state assembly and then went on to beat the NDA 6-4 in the ten constituencies where elections were held in August this year. In neighboring Uttar Pradesh, the ruling Samajwadi Party performed out of its skin to wrests as many as eight seats from the saffron camp. This in spite of the fact that the BJP tried to cash in on communal tensions that have gripped the western parts of UP over the last year.

The revival of the Congress: After being reduced to mere 44 seats in May which saw many of its stalwarts biting the dust, the results of the by-polls have enthused a bit of life in the grand old party which many believe was in its last leg. The rot in the organizational structure is still there and its present leadership is insipid. But a string of rather unexpected victories over its arch rival is what the doctor prescribed the INC ahead of the state polls scheduled later this year. In the hill state of Uttarakhand where in the incumbent regime was looking shaky after the defection of Satpal Maharaj to the BJP ahead of the May elections, the party won swept won all the three seats. In Rajasthan where it was literally bulldozed by the saffronists, first in 2013 and May 2014, the INC bagged three out of the four seats. Similarly, in Karnataka, Gujarat and MP, it managed to bag constituencies held by the BJP. The Congress needs to make sure that the momentum is taken forward; At the same time, it is important to address issues that are plaguing the party and address them at the earliest.

The fight for the states is heating up: After that stupendous win, there were many who felt that the BJP, riding high on its success, would sweep the four states that will see polls being conducted in the near future. In fact, in all these states, the saffron outfit put up an impressive show - the NDA won 42 of the 48 seats in Maharashtra; seven of its 10 candidates were elected in Haryana; it created history and swept Jammu while painting the national capital in orange. As such, it was expected that the party would not find it difficult to win all of these states. However, the results of the by-polls has put the BJP on the back foot and has shaken the confidence of its supporters. The break-up of the 25 year old BJP-Shiv Sena alliance has made matters worse in the western state. In Haryana too, the Bishnoi led HJC has pulled the plug on its coalition with the BJP. In Delhi, the AAP's string operation has 'exposed' the party's back door efforts to bag power. Besides, in Jammu Kashmir, the PDP seems to be edging the saffron outfit.

For more on the August-September 2014 By-polls, click here (Link)